Doctor, we need some time with you to discuss vaccinations for our son. We have decided not to vaccinate him”. I was more angry than shocked!
After 36 years in practice, I did not think something can still shake me up and that too from a couple – both in late 30s, who were blessed with a son after almost two years of artificial reproduction procedures!
Although masses know and accept that vaccinations in children are to protect them from debilitating, deforming and at times fatal ailments, we practitioners have been hearing such thoughts/decisions with increasing frequency. Disturbingly, these thoughts are from the literati; well-educated and well-placed couples and it is based on some information they picked up from the web or from a know all colleague.
Just imagine, if you search the web for <vaccinations side effects> what do you expect to get? This is the worst damage Web 2.0 has caused – blogs/posts are picked up before credible websites!!
Few facts for anyone who has similar doubts:
- After decades of struggle small pox was eradicated, globally, in late 70s and this was possible only due to mandatory vaccination against it. It is even required before you could fly to another country. The generation today may not know about small pox as the disfigured faces of small pox are seen rarely.
- Infant mortality rate – In India, under 5 mortality rate (number of children dying before attaining 5 years of age per 1000 live births) has declined from 190 deaths per thousand live births in 1970 to 50 deaths per thousand live births in 2009. This decline is attributed largely to vaccinations and in addition to sanitation and better healthcare. This pace of decline is slowing down largely because inadequate funding and low perceived need for vaccinations.
- Pulse Polio Programme – campaign was run by the government of India since 1995-96 to eradicate poliomyelitis (polio) in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against polio virus. This way of immunising the entire critical mass is called building up ‘herd immunity’.
- Herd immunity – How do vaccines prevent outbreaks of disease?
When a critical portion (most at risk) of a community is immunised against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines — such as infants, pregnant women, or immuno compromised individuals — get protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained.
- In late 70s & early 80s, every monsoon most children would get measles, most of them suffered from acute post measles bronchitis; several would be hospitalised with pneumonia and a few unfortunate ones would succumb due to complications. From early 90s this lessened drastically as Measles vaccines was introduced in India in mid 80s and today we may not even see a single case of measles in a year!
Two of the common objections we hear:
I read about a serious complication of *** vaccine!
1. I tell them to search on some credible site – WHO or CDC
Most webpages that give such negative reports use terms like ‘maybe’, ‘said to have’, ‘alleged to…’ etc. Always talk to your family doctor or pediatrician before taking a decision that you may severely regret later and believe me the situation would be beyond control.
2. But my friend has not vaccinated his daughter and she is fine! So why should I give?
The friend’s kid is absolutely lucky for not paying dearly for parent’s deeds. The friend should thank ‘herd immunity’ for nothing happening to his daughter. Millions of parents did what was expected of them without web search and self-theorisation and the friend’s daughter benefited! The least they can do is to contribute to herd immunity.
3. Many are scared of fever caused by vaccines.
It is nothing compared to the actual sickness!
There are specific contraindications to some vaccines and your doctor is best equipped to decide.
Let it be a clinical decision!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.